By Edward Lee
8:00 AM EDT, June 5, 2012
Here is the second installment of a series that checks in with the seven Division I programs in the state to give a glimpse into the past and the future. Teams are scheduled to appear according to the chronological order in which their seasons ended. Monday’s visit was with Navy. Tuesday’s visit is with Towson.
The good: After wrapping up 2011 with a 3-10 overall record and a 1-5 Colonial Athletic Association mark that got former coach Tony Seaman dismissed, the team went 7-8 overall and 2-4 in the conference, finishing in fourth place and qualifying for the league tournament. It was a positive step, according to coach Shawn Nadelen. “Our guys put themselves in position to do that with some strong wins throughout the year,” he said. “And I think with how much we asked of them this year and their ability to get some strong character wins with the Hofstra and UMBC games, it really showed that the hard work and attention to detail were helping them find the field. I think towards the end of the season, we wore down and didn’t quite have that pop in our game that we did throughout most of the year, but I think confidencewise, our guys really grew up this year, especially the young group of freshmen and sophomores.” … Defensively, the Tigers surrendered 9.9 goals per game this spring, which was an alarming increase from the 8.2 average last year. But the team discovered its starting goalkeeper for the next season in junior Andrew Wascavage, who recorded a .567 save percentage and a 9.53 goals-against average and made at least 10 saves in five of his last six starts. “I’ve seen a lot of goalies in my day, and he was pretty much right up there in terms of how well he was seeing the ball and him being able to save the ball at a consistent pace,” Nadelen said. “As we got into CAA play, he was extremely impressive with double-digit saves on a consistent basis. When teams were peppering him, it would’ve been easy for a goalie to shut it down, especially in some of the games where we were giving up a lot of shots. But he just kept stepping up and making the saves as much as he could and tried to keep us in the fight. So he was extremely impressive for us.” … Both freshmen Jojo Ostrander and Justin Mabus were named to the CAA All-Rookie team, but Mabus’ emergence was more surprising to Nadelen. Mabus finished second on Towson in assists with 11 and tied for sixth in points with 15, but his transition to the collegiate game impressed Nadelen. “I wasn’t quite sure with him coming out of high school how well he would develop and how quickly he would develop,” Nadelen said. “He comes from a strong program, so that wasn’t really the question. It was just his own personal game, and I was really impressed with Justin and how well he adapted. He’s got a great knack and IQ for the game, which I think really helped him out, and his size is a plus as well.”
The bad: As happy as Nadelen was with the team’s improvement in the win-loss column, he was disappointed in the five-game losing streak to end the regular season. Perhaps the lowest point was a 6-3 setback to St. Joseph’s, which collected its first CAA win. “You always want to be playing your best lacrosse at the end of the year and obviously, we weren’t doing that,” Nadelen said. “We luckily put ourselves in a position to qualify for the CAA tournament with our wins during the course of the year. I was proud of our guys to accomplish that. But we’ve just got to be smarter and better understand what it takes going into next year.” … In the last three years, the offense has averaged 9.3 goals in 2010, 7.9 in 2011 and 8.3 this spring. After averaging 10.2 goals in the first 10 contests, the Tigers struggled to score 3.4 goals per game in their last five. “We’ve also just got to learn to play smarter and we’ve got to learn to play a little more efficiently,” Nadelen said. “I think I learned a bit as coach on how to manage that a little better going forward, and I think we kind of took a step towards that during the UMass semifinal game [in the CAA tournament]. We tried to control that game with the way we needed to play, which is different from how we approached it all season. It was a learning process for everybody.” … When senior Kevin Lalley and redshirt junior Scott Ruhl elected not to return to the team, their departures sapped the defense of a pair of experienced short-stick defensive midfielders. Through trial and error, the coaches did discover sophomore Jordan Fortmann, but Nadelen said opponents recognized attacking Towson’s short sticks as the defense’s vulnerabilities. “We didn’t have really a strong short-stick defensive midfield,” Nadelen said. “We had Jordan Fortmann, who had minimal experience before. Those guys are always getting picked on. They’re guys that are always getting dodged, and they play pretty much the majority of the game. That was a bit of our Achilles heel.”
Personnel changes: The Tigers’ biggest graduation losses are on attack, where Sean Maguire (20 goals and six assists) and Matt Lamon (17, 5) were a constant presence. Junior Matt Hughes (14, 10) is expected to return, but Nadelen is looking at incoming recruits like Chris Vetter and Nick Wynne to compete for a starting role. “That’s a lot of points off the board,” Nadelen said, referring to Maguire and Lamon. “So we’ve got to find some guys that can fill that, and hopefully, it’s not just two guys. Hopefully, it can be four guys with 12 to 15 goals during the year and give us a little more depth. We have some freshmen coming in that we hope can help us there, and the attack position is wide open for us right now.” … Starting midfielder Carl Iacona (13, 2) will also be gone, but Nadelen thinks that redshirt freshman Robby Zoppo (9, 2) is poised to fill that void. “Robby’s a competitor,” Nadelen said. “He does whatever you need him to – much like Carl. Robby, I think, is going to get a great deal of experience. He’s playing for the Under-19 World Championship for Team USA this summer, and I think that’s just going to make his game even stronger, playing the international game with all of those talented guys. So we expect Robby to come back with a great deal of confidence and his game to be even more refined than it was this year.” … The defense bids farewell to starting defenseman Sean Sheehe (eight groundballs and five caused turnovers) and long-stick midfielder John Kenyon (26, 18). Nadelen said sophomore Billy Choiniere and freshman John Horner will compete to succeed Sheehe, and freshman Sean Young is the primary candidate to replace Kenyon. “We’ve got to have those guys have a very strong summer as far as working on their games and an even better fall to really establish confidence and depth within the defensive end,” Nadelen said.
Forecast for 2012: Stormy. Nadelen’s concession that he had much to learn in his first year as the head coach should pay dividends next year, making way for a smoother regime. The players fully understand what’s expected of them. But the Tigers are in desperate need of some talent on the offensive end. That unit’s struggles have placed the burden on the defense, which can only do so much. Towson’s climb to legitimacy won’t get much help in the CAA, where Massachusetts, Penn State, Drexel and even St. Joseph’s lurk as losses on next year’s schedule.
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